History Bytes: Fun with fishing through the ages

February 26, 2016
By Marcy Shortuse

History Bytes 022416webBY SUE ERWIN – Frank Koffend, fisherman and collector, gave an interesting presentation on the history of fishing on Wednesday, Feb. 24 at the Johann Fust Community Library.
Koffend opened the presentation by speaking about English author Juliana Berners, who wrote a book in Olde English entitled “A Treatyse of Fysshynge wyth an Angle” (1496), the earliest known volume on sport fishing. Berners also illustrated the entire book.
“This was the first documented time anyone wrote a book about how to fish. She explained how to make the lines using horsehair, and she was the first person to speak about conservation. She stressed in the book: Only take enough fish to feed the family,” Koffend said.
There are 16 reproductions of the book, the most recent edition being published in 2008.
“This book was written for the common man – she was way ahead of her time,” Koffend said.
Koffend said sport fishing in the United States didn’t become popular until 1850.
Koffend went on to speak about early fishing tackle companies.
He spoke about James Heddon, who is credited with creating the first artificial fishing lures made of wood in the 1890s.
“He figured out how to use a spoon as a lure and made a million dollars inventing them. The original fishing lures were frogs carved from broomsticks,” Koffend said.
“He threw a frog leg in the water and saw a pike had ate it, so he started the Heddon Tackle Company and created frog baits – he was light years ahead of tackle companies,” Koffend said.
Koffend said there were thousands of tackle companies scattered throughout the United States in the early 1900s.
“There were lots of little ‘mom and pop’ shops around, but only five major ones survived and dominated the industry,” he said.
Koffend said Ole Evinrude created the fist outboard motor in 1910.
“He was courting a girl (who later became his wife) and she asked him to get her some ice cream. So, he rowed his boat across to an island and came up with an idea of how to get around faster on the water,” Koffend said.
Koffend said that World War II radically changed the fishing industry when plastic was invented.
“Plastic lures were very popular and monofilament line was created at that time,” he said. “Baits became much smaller, and spinning reels were created in France.”
Koffend said there are more than 30,000 different kinds of fish in the world.
He believes cod is the most popular fish, since it consists of 96 percent protein.
“You can preserve cod a dozen different ways and cod fish lay around 1000 eggs so they reproduce very fast,” he said.
Koffend encouraged everyone in the audience to take a kid fishing.
“We need to teach the next generation everything we know; give a kid a tackle box and teach them about preservation.”
U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management, sponsored the event.
The next and final History Bytes of the season will take place at 11 a.m. on Wednesday, March 2 at the Johann Fust Community Library.
The Boca Grande Historical Society is always in need of more volunteers. For more information, call 964-1600.